My English teacher and I recently had a conversation about why she’s choosing to make the midterm a handmade poster rather than a test or electronic project. With students using electronics as a means to get assignments done, she wants to encourage them to take a break from the screen and create a poster; even if it’s something as simple as gluing pictures to poster-board and talking about it, she’ll accept it as long as it’s not a Powerpoint presentation.
While watching the film Pressing On, I couldn’t help but notice the same conversations occurring among small press publishers. Many of them even argued that if more people from my generation were introduced to a letterpress, they would take the opportunity to learn how it works for the exact same reasons.
We had a letterpress in high school, but I never got the chance to really use it. I did once, but all I really did was pull a lever and “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost suddenly appeared on cardstock. All’s that to say is my biggest regret in high school is not taking more chances with learning about the letterpress. I do, however, have some designs from my school’s letterpress hanging in my dorm: one of a rat playing the violin with the caption “Literary Rat” written on the bottom, a poem from a friend’s manuscript, a pink poster with the words “LAVA: IT WILL MELT YOUR FACE OFF” on it (inside joke), and — while I nor the friend who gave it to me are Jewish — a blue dreidel. (Sadly, I was unable to get the poster of a pin-up girl on it that said “Your just my wood type,” which, of course, was made with wood type letters.)
You know how people say no two snowflakes are the same? That also goes for products of the letterpress. It was briefly mentioned in the interview with one of the “letterpressers” that they received positive reviews for the lack of ink on some letters and other imperfections. Their customers quickly stopped them to say they love it because it makes it more real.
The letterpressed I have in my room also have these imperfections, but I find it special because I know the hands that made them. It’s like having a little bit of them with me, even though we’ve all moved on, and if I were to buy from a seller I didn’t personally know, I’d have an equal amount of appreciation because of the time, effort, and planning put into it.